Today, I ran across an old cookbook that used to belong to my grandmother. The book itself was an original print, copyrighted in 1954. On the inside cover she had written “This book belongs to” along with her name and address. As though it was possible for her to lose and in the event, she wanted to ensure it’s safe return.
I never actually witnessed her using the book. Probably because by the time I came into her life she was already a seasoned pro when it came to the kitchen. Everything that she had learned from that book as a novice cook, was already seared into her brain.
My favorite part of the book actually appears before any of the recipes. The dedication of the book is my everything.
Funny how things change with time. Homemaker isn’t a term that you hear anymore. I consider myself more of a stay at home mom. Almost sounds like my kids are the only reasons I can come up with to get out of bed each day. Which, I am pretty sure my grandmother the homemaker would find that most amusing.
Moving past the outdated term homemaker, I am not sure that I have ever “gladly” prepared even ONE meal a day. Much less three. And I certainly don’t delight in doing it. I love my family and that is why I trudge off to the kitchen at meal time. But good for the lady who wrote the book.
I am definitely better at it now than when I married fifteen years ago. Back then a box of Lasagna Hamburger Helper was my glowing attempt to feed my new husband. And he always ate it, because he is a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them.
I guess if I had to write my own cookbook dedication it would be more like: A busy woman who prepares a meal most days (possibly more on the weekends) for my family, because they just may starve to death otherwise.
But who are we kidding. I am never writing a cookbook. Unless by cookbook we mean this blog about a cookbook.
Maybe my grandmother didn’t enjoy cooking for her four children and husband either. But if that was the case I couldn’t tell. Cooking seemed to be her love language. Even as an adult I could call her up on a Saturday and tell her that I was coming for a visit. By the time I arrived all of my favorite dishes would be hot on her stove.
What strikes me now at age 46 is that when I came into her life at ten months old, my grandmother was only a few years older than I am now. Her youngest child was somewhere around thirteen years old at that time. It gives me a whole new prospective on my grandmother.
As hinted above my grandma wasn’t my biological grandmother. But you couldn’t have told either of us that. To me she was simply the greatest grandmother in the entire world. She taught me so many life lessons. From the homemaker tasks of cooking, cleaning and sewing, to the human tasks of kindness, honesty and integrity. So much I learned from her.
I would give anything now to be able to talk to her woman to woman. SO many things that you only know to question after having your own life experiences. What was it like raising four children on a dairyman’s wages? How many casseroles did she have to burn before she always got them right? How often did she lock herself in the bathroom and fake constipation just to get a moment’s peace?
Not that I have ever pulled such a stunt.
These days I think about the mother, wife and woman, not just the rock star grandmother. I would give anything to hear her wisdom for middle-aged mommas who are just trying to hold on to their sanity, yet still enjoy every hard/wonderful/awful/ part of raising kids to adulthood.
All while enjoying a plate of her perfected beef roast, potatoes and coleslaw.
No matter what trials and tribulations we face in life there are always rays of sunshine that light our path. To me, she was the brightest. Unfortunately, some of her womanly wisdom was possibly lost on a brooding teenager and young woman, not yet old enough to ask all of the necessary questions.
My grandma eventually got dementia. It happened around the same that I married and got pregnant with our first child. The time when I needed her wisdom the most, the awful disease was already stripping her light. The last time we went to visit her in the assisted living home, we took our first child. I wanted my daughter to see the woman who had helped shape my life.
But as she held her I knew that she didn’t completely understand who she was holding. I asked Grandma if she remembered who I was. She smiled and told me that she wasn’t exactly sure of how she knew me, but that she knew that she had loved me, for a very long time.
And as I watched her smile and talk to my daughter, I cried. Because even though dementia had stolen her memories and feisty spirit, it could not take away her love.
My Grandmother gave me her cookbook when she knew that her mind was starting to abandon her. She was getting her affairs in order, so to speak. It hurt me so much to accept the gift at the time because of that reason.
Today, as I sit here holding her 65 year old cookbook, with all of her inserted handwritten notes and recipe additions, I feel like a part of her is here with me, sitting in my kitchen, on what would have been her 97th birthday.
And hopefully she is proud.
I love you, Grandma.